August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 19 September 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460919-TC-JAC-01; CL 21:51-54.


Chelsea, Friday Night, 19 Septr, 1846—

My dear Brother,

I must write you a word tonight, tho' it is very late, and I shall have to be briefer than I wished. Your ingenious Pill-box arrived duly; all safe,—the medicine a little flattened, the globules of it squeezed together somewhat, but not difficult to disengage again, and restore to their pristine roundness, and lodge in a fitter recipient. Many thanks for your attention. I have taken one of the pills every night since, without any marked effect hitherto; I mean to persist till we arrive at some clear conclusion on the matter; and am not at present without some hope in regard to it, greater than I usually have in such cases. Indeed I have done almost nothing but lie utterly asleep in body and in mind ever since my return, being truly one of the most wearied and foredone of mortal men; so that no medicine has a fair chance with me for some time.— Alick's Letter came last night (not morning, as you expected); and was directly forwarded to Jean, by one Flemming, who came in the course of the evening, and had a Post-Office-close by his home.1 Poor Alick seems to have been in a rather perplexing condition with his harvest work; but has again got handsomely thro' it. I cannot but admit to myself that he seems to be doing, outwardly and inwardly taken together, much better there than was his wont while in this country. And one great advantage is, he has the prospect of improving as his family grows up about him, instead of worsening as would have been the case here. Your little remittance of money will evidently be of good service to him.

On Wednesday last, the first day I could muster free for such an enormous feat, I walked up to Moxon; made a statement to him of the Dante Project, with due diplomacy, keeping out all mention of names &c: Moxon listened with respectful attention; evidently did not much like the speculation; flowed out into embarrassed windings; and at length, when I gave him opportunity, gladly declined the enterprise. Of Moxon there was nothing more to be said. I told him it was merely a question addressed to his commercial experience: and now he, for his part, had answered No. Next day I meant to go to Chapman & Hall; but loitered too long, was in fact too languid, inattentive to the flight of time; and did not get till today. Today I found little Hall at home, a most sharp adroit little fellow:2 I explained with all the clearness, sincerity and emphasis I was master of the character of “my Travelled Friend,”—a man of sound intelligence, long resident in Italy, master of all the histories, commentaries and general literature of Dante; acquainted, in fact, with Dante (I did believe) better than perhaps any living Englishman: to produce a literal plain brief prose Translation, with minimum of of3 sound clear commentary, English Text on one side, Italian on the other (the whole, as I have often explained my notion of it to you, which Hall also seemed to think was the only feasible thing): “Would it do, or not?” Hall tho' he did not think the speculation a brilliant one, seemed not entirely averse to it; talked rationally enough; requested time to reflect and consult with his Partner. This of course I could not but yield him, “for a few days”; and so, with hopeful expressions on his part, we said good b'ye.— He suggested the great use there would be in your drawing up some more precise account (yourself) of your Plan; calculating what size of a Book, Commentary, Italian and all, it would make; sending them a specimen &c: this I too felt to be very reasonable: however, for the present, they are able to go on without it; and if they altogether decline, of course you need not for their sake take that trouble, tho' I should clearly recommend it otherwise. The size of the Book, you can form a kind of estimate of, in a rough way, by counting the lines of Italian verse, then the words in a line of Translation and Commentary, and contrasting them with any known Book,—a volume of the F. Revolution, for instance. So soon as any new light rises, you shall have it. My decided impression is that there will be no ready-money got for the Book; but whether Chapn & H. will take it on half-profit, I cannot with any accuracy guess. This, dear Brother, is all I have to say at present. If you were to write down fairly on paper your own no-4 tion of what could and should be done by you to Dante, with all these details I have recommended; and add a Specimen (something like what a page in the Book will actually be, Notes and all),— I certainly consider it would be of much advantage, whether in this or in future negociations about it. My own real wish about it is that you had the matter wisely off your hands: and to this or any other issue you may prefer, I will do of course whatsoever lies in me.

And now good night. I do not send you the Introductions for Yorkshire now, because it is not good that such things should be of too old date: but the instant you want them, speak and they are ready for you here.5 I found a Note from Forster (the Bradford man,6 not Fox) waiting me here; I have not yet answered it: he seemed to be engaged in some kind of Tour just at that moment, but a very limited one, nowhere at much distance from home.7

You must do me the favour to accept that new Bank-draft without clipping, or farther struggling; and let that poor matter be buried decently as it ought. No word more of it, unless you will vex me very much.8

O my dear old Mother, how are you, in your remote upper room yonder,—where your light is burning very visible to my mind's eye at present!— My blessings there, on one and all. Your affectionate Brother T. Carlyle